Pleased to Meet You
Leave it to a single-digit philosopher like Henry David Thoreau to sum up the virtues of going it alone once in a while: “I never found a companion,” the old goat uttered, “that was so companionable as solitude.”
I’ll second that emotion, Hank — especially when it comes to playing the vexatious game of golf, where one bad apple in the foursome could cost you 3 a side due to unvented annoyance and suppressed spleen. But for the rule of lawn, I’d likely have strangled a feller or two by now.
But of course one must strive to channel one’s inner gentleman when donning plus-fours and Footjoys, even when shanking one’s drives into the adjacent forest — and all because some hollow-point bozo refuses to stop gabbing while you’re busy addressing the ball.
You’d hit the unprincipled lout with a swift uppercut, but you just met him all of 20 minutes ago, when you were cruelly paired up by the starter in a game of what I call American Roulette. Arrive at the course as a single and spin the cylinder; chances are you’ll be spending the day with a mash-up of Charley Hoffman and Charley Manson (actually, that sounds kind of interesting!).
American Roulette is a far less lethal game than the Russki version — no actual blood risks being spilled, but one’s blood pressure can rise precipitously when you’re forced to golf with someone who doesn’t know a mashie from mashed potatoes, nor an albatross from an alpaca. The kind of guy who stands directly behind the hole while you’re putting … you know the type.
I once played a round of golf with the one-and-only Larry David, the dyspeptic creator of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, in order to write a story for GOLF Magazine on the experience. At first he resisted with inarguable logic: “Four hours is way too much time to spend with a stranger,” he said, which is exactly my point. Life is too short to suffer fools and duffers alike.
Not that I’m particularly thin-skinned; I can usually ignore all but the most egregiously ill-mannered fellow hackers, as long as they advance their ball steadily without taking umpteen practice swings while reciting what their instructor has them working on this week. If I knew the name of the guy promulgating so many hopelessly disfigured golf swings, I’d have him arrested for fraud.
For better or worse, I live in Los Angeles, where hordes of underemployed kooks and characters (like myself) hie to the local muni to sop up idle hours better spent looking for work or volunteering at the local soup kitchen. What, and let one’s short game go to the dogs on a perfectly sunny afternoon? Like the bumper sticker says: “I’d rather be golfing.”
Mind you, life in the Hollywood slow lane also affords one the opportunity to meet some interesting characters alongside the psycho-rabble on a given day. Over the years I have teed it up with Hall of Fame NFL running back Eric Dickerson (whose apparel and gold chains easily exceeded the value of my car), cartoon actor Rob Paulsen (the lead voice of Pinky and the Brain) and even one of my personal heroes, Richard Roundtree, the legendary star of Shaft. Thereby hangs a wee tale.
I had shown up alone and unannounced at a neighborhood country club, where the kindly pro indulged my propensity to wheedle a free round out of him now and again, when up strolled Roundtree, exactly one week early, for a celebrity tournament.
When informed of his scheduling gaffe, the actor was graciously invited to go out and play a practice round with me, little knowing I was one of his most devoted fans. When we got to the first tee, I asked R2 if he’d like me to start quoting lines from Shaft immediately or perhaps wait a few holes. “Yeah, you could wait a few holes,” he said with a slight smile, sizing me up. I’ll admit it, I am potentially as annoying a companion as the ones I’m currently going on about!
Then again, I played a recent round with a matched pair of insufferable golf bloggers, whose running commentary on course conditions and misperceived breaks on the greens drove me off the course after nine, seemingly interminable holes. Rule of thumb: There is one thing more boring than watching paint dry: it’s talking about golf while golfing. Has nobody read a cracking yarn recently or seen a passable movie? Do we have to discuss swing planes on such a lovely day? Stack and tilt this!
More importantly, in these divisive times of ours, don’t venture your sage opinions on the current political scene when you should be worrying about keeping your left arm straight during the backswing. Half the reason for being on a golf course in the first place is to forget that the fate of the world depends on a comedy team called Trump & Kushner! Like I said, don’t go there — leave the commentary to Sean Hannity, who gets paid handsomely for his insensate musings.
But please don’t write me off as an intolerant, cranky misanthrope just yet. In the name of being fair and balanced myself, I’m about to get all soft and sentimental for a change.
The beautiful thing about golf is that it is a more democratic domain than our great nation itself. Anyone with a set of knockoff Chinese sticks and a sleeve of Pinnacles is entitled to step up and knock holy hell out of the ball irrespective of race, color or inflated handicap. I heartily welcome you to join me for a round anytime/anywhere, just as long as you promise not to tell rabbi-and-priest golf jokes or read my putts for me. Trust me, I have played the game a few times before.
We’re up, gentlemen. What tees do you want to play from? My name’s Dave, and I am a golfaholic. Nice to meet you, too.